More details have emerged about the intriguingly named Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), a US$100-million materials-research programme under which a variety of US science-funding agencies are working to halve the time it takes for newly discovered materials to reach the market.
At the Materials Research Society meeting in Boston today, a line-up of US officials described the programme, which was announced by US President Barack Obama in June. The emphasis of the MGI is on creating a community in which researchers think of themselves as collaborators, not individual principal investigators, and materials-science data and tools will be shared and open to all, said Cyrus Wadia (pictured at the podium), the Assistant Director for Clean Energy and Materials Research and Development at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Instead of thinking as individuals, think as a network,” he told the hundreds of materials scientists assembled at the meeting . Wadia tells Nature that the initiative was named after the Human Genome Project, because, like that effort, it is intended to be a community-wide movement to solve a major problem and to result in free data that anyone can use.
Wadia revealed that the administration is considering making ‘glue grants’ to researchers to work with others whose efforts are focused at different stages all along the pipeline, from discovery to the deployment of new materials. Such grants would probably also have strong requirements for data-sharing, he added. That’s something the materials-science community hasn’t been good at doing, in part because it employs a diverse range of tools and approaches, said Ian Robertson, the director of the Division of Materials Research at the US National Science Foundation (NSF), one of the agencies participating in the MGI. Materials scientists “need to learn from colleagues in astronomy and physics how to handle large datasets”, he said. Robertson and Wadia both said that the goal of the MGI is to build a substantial new materials-science infrastructure, divided among new experimental tools, new computational tools, and data.
The NSF, which dodged deep cuts in a budget passed by Congress on 17 November , already has on its website a letter outlining what kinds of research might be funded under the initiative. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science plans to release around $40 million under the programme once its 2012 budget has been finalized by Congress, which is expected to happen in the next few weeks.